Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Chris here... Sorry we didn't update you after we left Liberty Landing.  We had a nice time there, albeit expensive as their "reduced" Winter rate was still $2.50 per foot + $18/day for electric.  We went to the Liberty Science Center which is about a mile long walk from the marina and checked out a lot of their very cool exhibits with the kids.  On Friday night we had a few of our good friends from Haverstraw take us out to a great Portuguese restaurant in Newark.  Saturday was a quiet day - just a lot of hanging out on Pelican, relaxing, and eating leftover turkey.  I sure do miss those relaxing days on Pelican, and will gladly take any day on Pelican - even without the clear waters underneath us.

Sunday turned out to be a nice day - not incredibly warm, but the wind was down and our full enclosure created somewhat of a greenhouse effect.  I would highly recommend that ANYONE cruising get a fully enclosed cockpit - even in the Bahamanian sun it was great to reduce the heat and protect us from rain.  In the cold it's even better.  We never even really needed to run our portable propane cockpit heater, although Kristen did turn it on just because she likes to be toasty.  She would have used it in the Bahamas if we had brought it with us.

Statue of Liberty
We left Liberty Landing at around 8:30 or 9am or so and did our "standard" course - we headed for the Statue of Liberty before we went to the East River.  There's nothing like seeing the statue from your own boat, right up close.  The picture above above just doesn't do her justice.  We were right up to the security zone and could almost reach out and touch her.  It must have been amazing for the immigrants of another time to sail through New York Harbor and see her majestic stance, awaiting their opportunity in a new world.

Hell Gate
Anyway, once we saw the statue we took a hard left turn and headed to the East River.  Traffic in the harbor wasn't bad at all - only a few tour ships and barges to dodge - so it was easy to enter.  Holiday weekends in the Winter are definitely a good time to come through.  For those of you that haven't had the pleasure of hearing about traversing the East River, it's not too bad a trip as long as you take into account that the entire Long Island Sound pours into it on one side and the Hudson River pours into it from the other.  In other words, currents can be a bit tricky and strong so you have to time your traversal correctly.  The most "difficult" section to get through is an area called "Hell Gate" which is the convergence of the East River, the Harlem River, the Hudson River and The Long Island Sound.  You can get whirlpools and riptides through here, and if you are trying to get through against the current, which can sometimes be north of 5kts, life can get interesting.

Some people prefer to enter the Hell Gate area when there is no current (i.e. slack).  Liking a little adventure on a sailboat, however, I prefer entering Hell Gate with a full on current in the direction I'm going.  To make this happen, you enter the East River just as the current turns slack, and the current picks up as you go along.

Tug traversing the East River

Riker's Island
Anyway, this is what we did.  There was a bit of traffic on the river, but we monitored the commercial channels (Channel 13) and spoke to the tugs as needed.  It's pretty cool passing under the Brooklyn Bridge and by the original Domino's Sugar factory (painted to look like a big box of, well, Domino's Sugar).  We came close to dropping the kids off at Riker's Island, a high security prison facility that's supposed to be pretty nasty, but we decided there might be too much paperwork.

Traversing Hell Gate at 10.3 Knots

Going through Hell Gate ended up being pretty sane.  We got stuck behind a tug going slower than us (we had about a 4kt current in our favor, so add our 6.3kts of boat speed and we were doing about 10.3kts over ground - not our fastest, but still fun for a 26 year old sailboat!) so we had to throttle back some.  With the currents and the turns through the gate you really don't want to pass anyone.  I'm glad we did this since as the tug approached the exit from the gate he slewed sideways some from the riptides.  Exiting the gate we had to stay behind the tug for quite some time as there was a lot of BIG oncoming traffic.  That's OK though - we're a sailboat, even if we're motoring.  Relax, take it easy, and enjoy being out on the water.

Leaving NYC behind
The ride through the East River was fast.  So far we had averaged over 8kts on this trip, so it wasn't even noon by the time we hit the Long Island Sound.  As you can see above, the seas were pretty calm and the day continued to be beautiful.

Stamford appears a bit empty
By around 2:30pm or so we had arrived in Stamford, CT.  We had slightly incorrect directions as to where to go for our slip, but it all worked out and I got a great opportunity to practice my back and fill one hundred and eighty degree turns.  We pulled into our slip, tied up and cleaned up some.

Here's where the dance and logistics got fun.  Our car was in Haverstraw, our kids needed to get home for school the next day, and we were in Stamford - not even our final destination.  Our good friend Dan from Haverstraw drove our car to Stamford for us and met us at the marina.  Another friend, Robyn, came along for the ride.  A few minutes after they showed up my mother, who lives in Stamford, also showed up.  We all hung out in Pelican's cockpit for a few minutes, and then Kristen departed back to Haverstraw with the kids, Dan and Robyn.  I was able to convince Dan and Robyn to make the drive back to Stamford, so as soon as Kristen dropped them off they turned around and came back.  While Kristen drove back to Albany with the kids, Dan, Robyn, my mother and I all went to an All You Can Eat Sushi place in Stamford (Sushi X).  $20 for all you can eat sushi, kitchen appetizers, udon, tempura and more!  How can you beat it?? This is one thing we could never get in the Bahamas unless you caught it yourself - cheap sushi.

Robyn and Dan ended up staying for a few more hours and we ended up finishing a bottle of Rum.  Well, actually, pretty much just Robyn and I started and finished the bottle of rum.  Kind of scary!  Kristen got back at around 10 or 11 and proceeded to open a new bottle.  Dan didn't drink, so at about midnight he and Robyn took off back to Haverstraw.  It's always nice to hang out with friends!

The next morning it was just Kristen and I and we headed for Branford.  This was a fairly easy 38nm jaunt - exit Stamford Harbor, turn east, go 15nm, turn slightly north, and then go another 20nm, then turn toward the Branford River.  It was another great day out, and the weather cooperated well.  Our only issue was dodging lobster pots - many of which were black (scum from being out all season?) and difficult to see.  We ran over one, but it didn't catch.  We certainly weren't interested in diving on our prop in 45-50 degree water!

Branford Harbor/River

Dutch Wharf Boatyard is an interesting place.  It resides on a quiet river off the Long Island Sound.  To access it you have to follow a fairly narrow channel showing on our chart with depths of six feet - Pelican drawing six feet.  Speaking with Dutch Wharf, however, we knew that the depths were closer to eight or nine feet at low tide.  Regardless, it's nicer to enter the harbor when it's mid or high tide, and that's what we did.

Entering Branford River
I wish I took more pictures, but Branford River is just a completely serene world during the off season.  On season, there's a large marina at the entrance to the river with boats zipping in and out all day long.  Today, however, we were one of two boats on the river, just ghosting along and barely running a wake.  Several people waved at us to welcome us as we passed the breakwall at the entrance.  What a gorgeous area with a complete New England feel.  The picture above is of the widest area of the river, just before the breakwall shown on the map.

As we approached Dutch Wharf I realized that we had a 1kt current or so moving with us upstream so I contacted Dutch Wharf and they had a couple of people waiting for us at the docks.  The slips are perpendicular to the current so it can be somewhat tricky entering them.  It's kind of like a controlled crash - you have to turn your boat sideways about 20 feet or so before getting to your slip, let the current carry you along, and then floor it to get forward momentum as you close in.  It often seems like you're going to slam your bow into the boat in the next slip over, but if you don't do this you'll miss your slip and be in a world of hurt.  Anyway, I was able to line up well, zoom in and perform a solid, yet gentle, landing.  We tied up, checked in and then relaxed.  We were a day late due to the weather, but that was OK.

Sunset from our slip in Branford
Over the next two days we had a ton to do.  On Tuesday morning Kristen took the train from Branford to Stamford, CT to pick up our car.  As they were predicting nasty rain and wind for Wednesday, we opted to do the outside work on Tuesday.  We pulled the sails off and folded them.  Since we were going to pull the mast out for the Winter, we pulled all of the running rigging, the vang, the boom and other pieces and parts off.  We labeled and disconnected all of the multitude of wires that run through our mast.  It was a long day, but we did it and everything went well.

Gross flatworm
Wednesday was nasty as predicted - sheets of rain and winds gusting to 50mph.  We went out to Walmart and bought out their supply of pink antifreeze (non-toxic so you can use it in your drinking water system) and then proceeded to Winterize everything - the fresh water pressure system, the engine, the generator, the bilge and several other items that we didn't want damaged over the Winter.  This is the first time we've done it ourselves and it worked out well.  Our only "moment" was when we opened up our AC/Heat system and a disgusting pink gelatinous mess slid out.  It then unraveled itself into a pulsating twelve inch long flatworm.  Ick!!!  Kristen threw it into the river and then proceeded to find its kids in our AC/Heat filter, which she also threw into the river (the kids, not the filter).  After we thought about it, we hope we didn't introduce a non-indigenous species to Branford!

After Winterizing we packed up box after box of "stuff" from Pelican and moved it through the driving rain to our car.  We had decided to get as much off of Pelican as possible so we could give her a huge cleaning in the Spring.  I'm not even kidding - our waterline was changed by over four inches once everything was off!  Overall, not a fun day, but definitely a productive one.

Pelican has now been hauled and her mast removed.  She should also be shrinkwrapped by now.  We have a lot of work to do on her over the Winter.  The boatyard will be fixing an issue with the rudder cage that is known to Passport boats (it's pretty corroded through) and we'll be doing some work on the mast (new wiring, cleaning up some corrosion, etc.).  We might also take the opportunity to do a little work on the teak decks.

Several people have asked why we moved Pelican all the way to Branford, CT instead of having the work done at Haverstraw.  It has nothing to do with a concern over the quality at Haverstraw.  Two years ago when it was recommended that we use Dutch Wharf to get some work done to Pelican we dropped her off in October.  They had estimated that the work would cost about $9k.  A few days later we decided to go cruising and asked them if they could complete the repairs in two weeks as opposed to taking the entire Winter like we had originally given to them.  They were able to, and as we were about to pull away from their docks the owner came running up to me with an envelope.  "What's this?" I asked.  "Well, the work didn't come out to $9k so it's a partial refund."  I was amazed and delighted.  The work was done very well (these guys don't just repair boats - they build new wooden ones from scratch and completely renovate older vessels), done in record time and it was done well.  That's why we use Dutch Wharf and recommend them to everyone.

Here are a few pictures for everyone's enjoyment of some of the boats at the Dutch Wharf yard.  You may get an idea of the type of work they do by looking at these vessels.  I'll try to post some updates over the Winter.

Can't forget Pelican!